Thursday, February 18, 2010

Executive Spotlight: Paul Hastings, president and CEO of OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Paul Hastings is president and chief executive officer of new CHI member OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a clinical-stage company that discovers and develops novel therapeutics targeting cancer stem cells, the cells believed to be capable of driving tumor growth, recurrence and metastases. Since joining OncoMed in December 2005, he has been responsible for the forward integration of the company to the development stage, significant private financings, and the closing of a $1.4 billion preclinical, cancer stem cell collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline. Hastings was recently chairman of the board of Proteolix (sold to Onyx Pharmaceuticals in 2009), and served on the boards of ViaCell (sold to Perkin-Elmer in 2008), and Cerimon Pharmaceuticals. He is currently chairman of the board of the Bay Area Biosciences Association (BayBio) and serves on the executive committee of the board of directors of the Biotechnology Industry Association. The CHI Blog recently spoke with Hastings about where he sees OncoMed and the biomedical industry going.

“We’re going to have a great year,” Hastings said. A leader in cancer stem cell research, OncoMed has established a library of antibodies to cancer stem cell proteins for the treatment of solid tumors such as pancreatic, breast, colorectal and lung cancers. Its lead candidate, OMP-21M18, is currently in Phase I clinical trials. In addition to OMP-21M18, OncoMed’s pipeline includes several novel preclinical product candidates targeting multiple validated cancer stem cell pathways. Based in Redwood City, Calif., OncoMed marked its five-year anniversary in September 2009, and in its five-year history has managed to raise more than $220 million in capital to fund the company.

In addition to its lead candidate, OncoMed has another antibody that’s going to be filed for IND-track development this year and expects to file a third most likely in 2011. Hastings is especially excited about a potential new collaboration in a new pathway that OncoMed has in the works. “We’re looking forward to forging another major partnership in this new exciting cancer stem cell pathway,” he said. “We believe that these kinds of partnerships are what will fuel the growth of our industry, since capital access is so difficult in these days.”

Even before entering into another partnership, OncoMed has cash on hand that takes the company through 2013. Hastings credits the company’s strong capital position to the science at OncoMed, which is generating development candidates, creating value through clinical milestones and leading to future collaborations that will continue funding the company.

With a core team of 75 people, Hastings is focused not on hiring but on achieving results. “We’re all about delivering on milestones that we’ve set with a rather stealth, nimble and focused group of people,” Hastings said.

Another key priority for Hastings is the California biomedical industry. He became chairman of BayBio in January 2010, and looks forward to close collaboration between BayBio, BIO and the California Healthcare Institute, which OncoMed recently joined. He is also focused on improving education to develop the biomedical workforce of tomorrow. One example is BayBio’s support of Biotech Partners through several programs, including a fundraising drive during its 2009 Pantheon Awards. Biotech Partners, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect youth to the world of biotechnology, provides an entry-level biotechnology education and training program dedicated to supporting the San Francisco Bay Area’s robust bioscience industry while providing valuable working skills for local young people. Other supporters include CHI member companies Amgen, Bayer and Tethys Bioscience. Beyond K-12 education, he said the biomedical community needs to lobby gubernatorial candidates about the importance of maintaining California’s higher education system. “We need to keep the University of California alive and well, because that’s where the biotech industry came from and where our employee base comes from,” Hastings said. And on the national front, he wants to make sure healthcare reform does not inhibit the industry’s ability to innovate.

From now on, successful biomedical start-ups are going to have to think creatively – and know where their financing will come from early on, Hastings said. Gone, at least for now, are the days when new companies needed just a small amount of capital and then were able to create value through an initial public offering or an acquisition.

Looking ahead, he expects to see fewer but higher-quality companies – and increasing consolidation. “I think the companies that are going to survive in the future, particularly early-stage companies that just get started this year or next, are really going have to have exciting enough science and exciting enough discovery to be able to attract the kinds of dollars that people are getting for later-stage deals, but earlier on,” Hastings said.

When he is not working at OncoMed or on behalf of the biomedical industry, you might find Hastings snowboarding in Whistler in the wintertime or enjoying his Sonoma County house in the summertime. “I’m kind of a busy guy, and that’s what I like to do – stay busy,” he said.

CHI-Advancing California biomedical research and innovation

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